Opportunity to hit with a former (recently retired) Pro!

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
WOW, eye opening...and leg burning!
Joe_Sch and I were fortunate enough to have a chance to hit against former #113 (2011), South African (recently, 3 years ago) retired player. Great and completely exhausting 90 minutes of hitting. Long, rallies, deep shots with a lot of weight on them. And yes, the former Pro was putting probably about 30% in to these rallies, with the exception of a few times that he ripped the ball.

What I noticed being on the other side of the net:
- his shots felt very effortless and to some extend confusing as I expected the ball to come slowly my way but instead, it came faster and with a lot of action and weight.
- Even though he was considered a very flat hitter, there is a lot of spin and action on his (30% effort) shots
- the sound of his shots - heavy - propagating pop, no matter what wing he hit from - FH or 1HBH
- the net clearance was very consistent and low.
- it felt like there is almost no chance to hit a winner against him at 30% his effort. Yes, he is a 6ft 5in guy, but it felt like my shots (4.5) traveled so slowly from my racket to his and so fast the other direction.
- this is when I realized how bad my movement/footwork really is. It felt like I was getting jammed or I was mistiming a lot of my shots while he was in constant, floating-like, motion and easy reach to all of my shots.

I will add more observations as it settles in and after the next session(s).

We have had some discussions before on these forums if it would be possible (for a 4.0-4.5) to GET (not necessarily win) a single point against the Pro, and I can definitely say yes. It is a human nature to hit at 30-40% against lower level players and to be less involved (move different). I was able to hit a few winners, he shanked a few times and I mishit a few times that created a weird winner. If somehow he would have engaged at a 100%, there is absolutely no way to hit a winner against him. Maybe a super lucky first serve (I doubt even at 110 mph (my standard 1st serve) as our serves have very little action on top of that speed)...

Funny enough, after he left, Joe and I hit for another 20 minutes and both of us had a similar reaction - it felt like we moved to the red clay court...

I am looking forward to the next hitting session.
Joe - please feel free to add more observations.
 

haqq777

Legend
WOW, eye opening...and leg burning!
Joe_Sch and I were fortunate enough to have a chance to hit against former #113 (2011), South African (recently, 3 years ago) retired player. Great and completely exhausting 90 minutes of hitting. Long, rallies, deep shots with a lot of weight on them. And yes, the former Pro was putting probably about 30% in to these rallies, with the exception of a few times that he ripped the ball.

What I noticed being on the other side of the net:
- his shots felt very effortless and to some extend confusing as I expected the ball to come slowly my way but instead, it came faster and with a lot of action and weight.
- Even though he was considered a very flat hitter, there is a lot of spin and action on his (30% effort) shots
- the sound of his shots - heavy - propagating pop, no matter what wing he hit from - FH or 1HBH
- the net clearance was very consistent and low.
- it felt like there is almost no chance to hit a winner against him at 30% his effort. Yes, he is a 6ft 5in guy, but it felt like my shots (4.5) traveled so slowly from my racket to his and so fast the other direction.
- this is when I realized how bad my movement/footwork really is. It felt like I was getting jammed or I was mistiming a lot of my shots while he was in constant, floating-like, motion and easy reach to all of my shots.

I will add more observations as it settles in and after the next session(s).

We have had some discussions before on these forums if it would be possible (for a 4.0-4.5) to GET (not necessarily win) a single point against the Pro, and I can definitely say yes. It is a human nature to hit at 30-40% against lower level players and to be less involved (move different). I was able to hit a few winners, he shanked a few times and I mishit a few times that created a weird winner. If somehow he would have engaged at a 100%, there is absolutely no way to hit a winner against him. Maybe a super lucky first serve (I doubt even at 110 mph (my standard 1st serve) as our serves have very little action on top of that speed)...

Funny enough, after he left, Joe and I hit for another 20 minutes and both of us had a similar reaction - it felt like we moved to the red clay court...

I am looking forward to the next hitting session.
Joe - please feel free to add more observations.
Very interesting observations. Who was the retired player?
 

joe sch

Legend
WOW, eye opening...and leg burning!
Joe_Sch and I were fortunate enough to have a chance to hit against former #113 (2011), South African (recently, 3 years ago) retired player. Great and completely exhausting 90 minutes of hitting. Long, rallies, deep shots with a lot of weight on them. And yes, the former Pro was putting probably about 30% in to these rallies, with the exception of a few times that he ripped the ball.

What I noticed being on the other side of the net:
- his shots felt very effortless and to some extend confusing as I expected the ball to come slowly my way but instead, it came faster and with a lot of action and weight.
- Even though he was considered a very flat hitter, there is a lot of spin and action on his (30% effort) shots
- the sound of his shots - heavy - propagating pop, no matter what wing he hit from - FH or 1HBH
- the net clearance was very consistent and low.
- it felt like there is almost no chance to hit a winner against him at 30% his effort. Yes, he is a 6ft 5in guy, but it felt like my shots (4.5) traveled so slowly from my racket to his and so fast the other direction.
- this is when I realized how bad my movement/footwork really is. It felt like I was getting jammed or I was mistiming a lot of my shots while he was in constant, floating-like, motion and easy reach to all of my shots.

I will add more observations as it settles in and after the next session(s).

We have had some discussions before on these forums if it would be possible (for a 4.0-4.5) to GET (not necessarily win) a single point against the Pro, and I can definitely say yes. It is a human nature to hit at 30-40% against lower level players and to be less involved (move different). I was able to hit a few winners, he shanked a few times and I mishit a few times that created a weird winner. If somehow he would have engaged at a 100%, there is absolutely no way to hit a winner against him. Maybe a super lucky first serve (I doubt even at 110 mph (my standard 1st serve) as our serves have very little action on top of that speed)...

Funny enough, after he left, Joe and I hit for another 20 minutes and both of us had a similar reaction - it felt like we moved to the red clay court...

I am looking forward to the next hitting session.
Joe - please feel free to add more observations.
It was really a thrill to hit with a recently retired ATP player and meet Izak, who is a really nice friendly guy.
Izak is not your typical ATP player since he prefers to play S/V and hits hard flat strokes.
He is similar to a DelPo type player with respect to ground strokes.
As Dr325i noted, his hitting was effortless as he consistently hit heavy balls landing very near the BL.
Really requires early preparation, like playing on grass.
Its hard to get relaxed when you have bullets landing near your feet with too little time to windup.
I really enjoyed this opportunity and look forward to another hitting session with Izak !
 

70後

Hall of Fame
nice report, thanks. An ordinary person of course doesn't stand a chance against a pro, but the actual gulf between them is lightyears.
 

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
Izak Van Der Merwe
nice report, thanks. An ordinary person of course doesn't stand a chance against a pro, but the actual gulf between them is lightyears.
Izak has some quality wins and great runs at Newport. He also played Wimbledon.
He was telling us about returning Isner's serves, practice sessions with Roger, Novak, his Davis cup participation with Anderson. Amazing stories and a very hard work to get there.
 

The Green Mile

Bionic Poster
Izak Van Der Merwe

Izak has some quality wins and great runs at Newport. He also played Wimbledon.
He was telling us about returning Isner's serves, practice sessions with Roger, Novak, his Davis cup participation with Anderson. Amazing stories and a very hard work to get there.
If you have some time to share some of these stories, that would be nice. No real biggie though. Cool thread btw.
 

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
1) Next time, I will record parts of the session
2) Interesting comments about returning Isner's serve were the amount of action/jump/curving/movement on his ball. He mentioned there is almost no way to time it right and attack it, the only option is to block it. He also mentioned that most of John's serves jumped over the (low) fence at Newport, into the spectators. Izak is 6'5' and he said he was always a foot or two short to feel comfortable returning his serves.
 

jaxadam

Rookie
1) Next time, I will record parts of the session
2) Interesting comments about returning Isner's serve were the amount of action/jump/curving/movement on his ball. He mentioned there is almost no way to time it right and attack it, the only option is to block it. He also mentioned that most of John's serves jumped over the (low) fence at Newport, into the spectators. Izak is 6'5' and he said he was always a foot or two short to feel comfortable returning his serves.
The amount of kick on Isner's serves, especially his second, make it seem almost impossible to get an idea of what and where it's going to go. I think most guys don't get to see or train against something like this very often so it literally must feel like it comes out of nowhere.
 
Great thread. I am jealous of you guys, what an awesome opportunity. It's fascinating to see the chasm in skill between a top hundred pro playing soft and highly accomplished amateurs such as you.
 

joe sch

Legend
1) Next time, I will record parts of the session
2) Interesting comments about returning Isner's serve were the amount of action/jump/curving/movement on his ball. He mentioned there is almost no way to time it right and attack it, the only option is to block it. He also mentioned that most of John's serves jumped over the (low) fence at Newport, into the spectators. Izak is 6'5' and he said he was always a foot or two short to feel comfortable returning his serves.
Izak commented that the key to having a chance to return a bombing server like Isner's is using a conti grip and guessing/moving to the spot where it can be blocked back. Very similar to the correct way to hit a volley. Goes to show that pros are capable of using the appropriate grip for the return.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
Izak commented that the key to having a chance to return a bombing server like Isner's is using a conti grip and guessing/moving to the spot where it can be blocked back. Very similar to the correct way to hit a volley. Goes to show that pros are capable of using the appropriate grip for the return.
Continental grip!? Today?

Say it ain't so.
 

DNShade

Hall of Fame
Thats the point ... for volleying and returning service bombs, its still the way, maybe most effective, unless you cant adjust your grips.
I can vouch for this. I've actually been on court with John - returning - and you have to approach it like a volley. You just have to block it back as best you can and the best way is to step in a bit and try your best to get it on the rise - LOL. The hardest part is the angle it's coming from is quite different than you are used to so learning how to adjust is a part as well. You are going to guess wrong and get burned -- just deal with it. And it's going to get up high on you and you are screwed. Just the way it is. You just gotta laugh some times.
 

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
I can vouch for this. I've actually been on court with John - returning - and you have to approach it like a volley. You just have to block it back as best you can and the best way is to step in a bit and try your best to get it on the rise - LOL. The hardest part is the angle it's coming from is quite different than you are used to so learning how to adjust is a part as well. You are going to guess wrong and get burned -- just deal with it. And it's going to get up high on you and you are screwed. Just the way it is. You just gotta laugh some times.
Very similar to Izak's comments about being across the net from John!
 

HipRotation

Hall of Fame
Continental grip!? Today?

Say it ain't so.
Can't tell if you're being sarcastic Hoodjem.Most players use a continental grip on the return, the ball can come at you so fast with such force that all you have to do is hold out your racket and the ball will bounce off your strings and can go back to your opponent's baseline with pace if you time it right. Plus it makes it easier to hit off both sides without any messup if you use the same grip. You'd only really use a more contemporary forehand grip if you're expecting a 2nd serve that you have enough time with to change grips so you can try to punish with a stronger, more directed return.
 

SumYungGai

Semi-Pro
HipRotation, a lot of people nowadays hold their forehand grip, then their other hand on just in case it's a backhand return. I, myself hold continental but can switch to FH or BH grip fast, which I'm sure is what most players do. When you hit a return you might block back some without spin, or slice it back, but the majority of returns are topspin returns.

It isn't hard or abnormal to abbreviate your motion and just swing up through your return and finish high for the depth.
 

joe sch

Legend
HipRotation, a lot of people nowadays hold their forehand grip, then their other hand on just in case it's a backhand return. I, myself hold continental but can switch to FH or BH grip fast, which I'm sure is what most players do. When you hit a return you might block back some without spin, or slice it back, but the majority of returns are topspin returns.
Ill respond that what you describe is the "ready position" and with bombing serves, your just hopeful to guess right and get a solid block back ... no time for a topspin return. Similar to this situation is an amateur playing with a pro and not having the time to topspin back the heavy balls that are landing near the baseline during rallies. This is part of the thrill or challenge of hitting against a player that is levels higher in skills and movement.
 

hoodjem

G.O.A.T.
Can't tell if you're being sarcastic Hoodjem.Most players use a continental grip on the return, the ball can come at you so fast with such force that all you have to do is hold out your racket and the ball will bounce off your strings and can go back to your opponent's baseline with pace if you time it right. Plus it makes it easier to hit off both sides without any messup if you use the same grip. You'd only really use a more contemporary forehand grip if you're expecting a 2nd serve that you have enough time with to change grips so you can try to punish with a stronger, more directed return.
Yes, I was. Too many over on the Gen Pro Player Discussion forum poo-poo the continental grip as old-fashioned, useless, and only for lazy old men in pajamas.

(They believe that the Western grip is the only one a contemporary pro would use.)
 
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dr325i

G.O.A.T.
Today, we do PART DEUX with Izak. Should be very windy, so not sure about it. Will do another one in two weeks and hopefully get a chance to film it...
 
I can vouch for this. I've actually been on court with John - returning - and you have to approach it like a volley. You just have to block it back as best you can and the best way is to step in a bit and try your best to get it on the rise - LOL. The hardest part is the angle it's coming from is quite different than you are used to so learning how to adjust is a part as well. You are going to guess wrong and get burned -- just deal with it. And it's going to get up high on you and you are screwed. Just the way it is. You just gotta laugh some times.
I've been on court against John and Andy Roddick, playing approach/pass with a 4.5 level partner. Not nearly as daunting as facing one of their serves (which I have not done). However, John is so darn lanky that in that setting he never really even had to move to put a swing on any of our approach shots or volleys. I stand 6'3" and rarely play against anyone taller than me. John takes it to a ridiculous extreme. I didn't mean to hijack the thread and look forward to your updates after the 2nd and 3rd hitting sessions.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
Today, we do PART DEUX with Izak. Should be very windy, so not sure about it. Will do another one in two weeks and hopefully get a chance to film it...
Look forward to the update, also a video would be great to see.
 

dr325i

G.O.A.T.
We were unfortunate that the wind was 20+ mph with higher gusts. Even the former pro had challenges adjusting to the wind gusts...
It died down a little bit toward the end when we were practicing serves and returns. My serve is my weapon (he immediately noticed that) and I can consistently serve first at 100+, occasionally a great placement at 110+ that gets me a few aces at my level. I think I jammed him once but most of my serves have come back fast and that was it. My second serve was pretty much useless against him - not enough action and ball movement.
He served at about 100-110 and I was able to put it back in, although his 100 is a very different than mine because his ball also moves sideways. A few times he hit a 130mph first and it passed by me before I was able to react... I think I "blocked" one of those but the ball went who knows where.
I had harder time returning his second because it was jumping high (kick) and moving so much sideways that it would either jam me or kick away from me...
He also hit a few lobs. Now I understand why/how even the pros cannot get to those sometimes. It goes up and down very fast (as compared to an amateur lob) and once it hits the ground it has so much spin that is just takes off into the fence...
 

droliver

Professional
I've gotten to hit with a former #1 doubles player (Ellis Ferreira) and it's like they come from another planet when they put any effort into it. The pace and spin just takes tour breath away, and like the OP said it makes you aware of how bad your footwork really is.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
I've gotten to hit with a former #1 doubles player (Ellis Ferreira) and it's like they come from another planet when they put any effort into it. The pace and spin just takes tour breath away, and like the OP said it makes you aware of how bad your footwork really is.
Footwork is everything.
 
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